It’s hard not to feel awed when visiting the country that brought us democracy, philosophy and the theatre.
Ancient Greece is still present in the astounding archaeological sites of the Acropolis, the cities of Mycenae, Mystras and Olympia, and the remains of the Temple of Delphi. But modern Greece has just as much to offer. When you’re tired out from archaeology, head to the Greek Islands to relax among the clear blue and green seas and iconic white-walled and blue-roofed villages. And of course, Greek food is all the more delicious in Greece, with fresh local produce and regional specialties key to the food culture.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. If you are travelling by boat to the Aegean Islands, the main ferry terminal in Athens is Piraeus, which is only a short distance from the airport. Be sure to buy tickets in advance. Buses are abundant in Greece, whereas train travel can be slow (although quite cheap).
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Geography, environment & weather
Greece has a southern European, Mediterreanean climate, featuring mild wet winters and hot dry summers – no matter where you are in the country. In some mountainous areas there is an alpine climate and snow is common. The Pindus mountain range affects Greece’s weather, bringing wetter conditions to the western side of the country due to the rain shadow effect.
In terms of geography, Greece has it all: mountains, plains, forests, coastal cities and thousands of tiny islands. At over 13000km, it has the 11th longest coastline in the world. Even so, the country is the most mountainous in Europe, with over eighty percent of the nation covered in mountains. The mainland is known as the Peloponnese peninsula.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
World Heritage sites
Greece boasts 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the most for any country in Europe and indeed the world. You can view the official list of the sites here https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/gr. It is well worth visiting every site, if you are able. But here’s a few highlights from the bunch:
Acropolis, Athens, universal symbols of the classical spirit
Temple of Apollo, famous temple to the god of healing and the sun
Delphi, ‘navel of the world’
Festivals & events
The Greeks love a festival, and they have plenty. Individual islands often have their own celebrations, and Greeks celebrate both their birthday and the day of the saint they are named after. The biggest national festival, however, is probably Orthodox Easter, celebrated by candlelit street parades and delicious feasts. Festivities can go for over a week – be aware though, datewise, Greek Orthodox Easter does not always match up with Catholic Easter. Other festivals include the Hellenic Festival, the August Moon Festival and Apokreas. You won’t want for reasons to celebrate in Greece.
- The Iliad or The Odyssey by Homer
- Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese by Patrick Leigh Fermor
- The Magus by John Fowles
- Zorba the Greek by Nikon Kazantzakis
eating & drinking
Food is an essential part of Greek culture. It tends to be very simple: fresh, seasonal produce, olive oil and charcoal grills. In some more remote parts of the country, people have been eating and cooking the same way for centuries. Given how seriously they take their food in this part of the world, the are many different types of restaurant. A mezodopolio offers a tapas-like dining experience. Tavernas have more generous servings, often in rustic settings. Psarotavernas are tavernas that serve seafood. Estiatorios offer the full restaurant experience: formal service, a choice of cuisine and wine. Many restaurants are open until midnight – the Greeks like to take their time over dinner.
health & safety
While much of Greece is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. Also, you will often see signs warning of pickpockets in areas popular with tourists, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply runs at 230V, 50Hz. Greek plugs have three (sometimes two) circular pins which form a straight line, shared by most of Europe (but not Australia).
Greece has a single time zone (excluding its overseas territories), Eastern European Time. The nation observes daylight saving time from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you make sure you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. It’s customary to tip 10-15% of the bill at restaurants, or 1 to 3 GBP at a more casual establishment. It’s polite to round a bill up to the nearest whole figure or leave the change when buying drinks.
Internet access is easily accessible, and most hotels and many cafes will be able to offer it.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Greece. Many providers will offer a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Greece
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.